By Amanda Strickler
The Useful Tree Species for Africa tool uses Google Earth to unveil two layers of vegetation for desired locations across the continent. (Image credit: World Agroforestry Centre)
Operating through Google Earth, Useful Tree Species for Africa allows users to zoom in on any location across Africa and see the area’s natural vegetation. The tool lets users select to search through two interactive layers. The transparent vegetative layer indicates species composition for each vegetation type while the colorful physiognomic layer marks the environmental zones. As users search, the tool gives links for more information the area’s natural growth provided by the World Agroforestry Centre’s Agroforestree Database.
This pair of research tools assists in planning for sustainable tree-planting and agroforestry projects. Tool users can select tree species not only by their ability to grow in a given location—as indicated by the satellite tool—but the tool also enables project planners to pare down which trees to plant by community need. The Agroforestree Database can cross-reference tree types with services trees provide such as timber, non-timber forest products, (like fodder, food, and medicines) or environmental services, (like soil fertility improvement, habitats, and windbreaks). A guidance document provides further information on tree selection by purpose and type.
The Useful Tree Species for Africa tool offers users with a foundation for sustainable tree-planting projects. When combined with the World Agroforestry Centre’s vast information on seedlings, tree-planting and agroforestry best practices, more systematic and targeted agroforestry projects are possible.
Amanda Strickler is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet